Going Long by Editors of Runner's World

Going Long by Editors of Runner's World

Author:Editors of Runner's World
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony/Rodale
Published: 2008-05-17T04:00:00+00:00

IT IS THE MORNING AFTER AND YASSO has limped to the elevator again, and up to the hotel rooftop. Everyone in the hotel is limping. He sits in the sunlight, the ocean behind him, his Moby-Dick of an ultramarathon captured, if not killed.

Running saved him. It gave him a path out of despair. It brought him his father’s love, and it taught him how to love his father back. He says all of this on the rooftop of the hotel, in the warm South African winter morning. And the pain? “Oh, yeah, I was hurting,” he says of the time his right eye was paralyzed open on the slopes of Mt. Kilimanjaro. “I thought it was the 24-hour flu,” he says of the time he woke burning in Cairo, then couldn’t stop his teeth from chattering, then was burning again. “I was sure it would pass,” he says of the first month he felt the odd, crushing fatigue of Lyme.

When Yasso’s at home (he travels 200 days a year), most nights he and Laura take a Jacuzzi, have a glass of wine (after 20 years of abstinence, Bart drinks occasionally), watch Letterman until Bart falls asleep on the couch. Then Laura will wake him and they’ll go upstairs. Their cat, Mojave, won’t ascend the steps until Bart has done so. It often takes him two minutes to get up the single flight.

His joints—particularly his right knee—ache fairly constantly, sometimes worse than other times. He wakes up singing, every day. “A different song every morning,” Laura says. How can he be anything but happy? He ran farther, and faster, than he ever imagined he could. He ran on other continents and won medals everywhere. In his living room he has a life-size wooden Masai sculpture bedecked with medals, but even more are scattered far and wide, in the hands and on the thatched walls of children and teenagers to whom he gave them. The young man who was afraid to talk in front of groups became a gregarious traveler who met so many people, touched so many people, and that has been the greatest gift of all. He is starting to understand that.

Over the years, thousands have shared with him their private pain. “I became the running whisperer,” he says. The halting and the shy, the sick and the blind, the grieving and the anxious, they all unburdened themselves to Bart, and he gladly accepted the weight. They gave him their pain not in spite of his struggles but because of them. His enormous tolerance of physical hardship evolved into a psychic capacity to absorb other people’s sadness and loss. He’s beginning to understand that. And he’s beginning to understand that those people weren’t just making themselves lighter and freer, they were making him lighter and freer, too.

Yasso is asked what his life would be like had he never started running. Uncharacteristically, the professional enthusiast pauses. Then: “I don’t know, and I don’t wanna know. But it wouldn’t be good, I guarantee that.


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